Talked up as one of the greats, Flightline justified that reputation in no uncertain style on Saturday at Keeneland, lighting up the Breeders’ Cup meeting with a performance to win the Classic that will live long in the memory.
Previously successful in a trio of Grade 1 events by a combined 37 lengths, Flightline was sent off the 4/9 favourite for trainer John Sadler to see off a field that included multiple Grade 1 winner Life Is Good, Saratoga Grade 1 scorers Olympiad and Epicenter and Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike.
As anticipated, Life Is Good broke fast under Irad Ortiz and went straight to the lead. But Flightline went with him and by the time they were midway down the backstretch, the pair had opened up big lead on the chasing pack. Round the final bend, however, the distress signals started to go out for Life Is Good. By contrast, Flightline was still cruising for Flavien Prat, and given the office, began to soar clear, eventually pulling over eight lengths clear of the second Olympiad. Taiba stayed on to take third ahead of Rich Strike and a tiring Life Is Good. Epicenter sadly suffered a fetlock injury down the backstretch and was vanned off for further evaluation at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
“It was a beautiful ride,” said Sadler. “No panic on (Flavien Prat’s) part. He let the horse do the running. We’re thrilled. It’s not about me, it’s about the horse. He’s a great horse.
“He just ran beautiful; just like we thought he could. It’s wonderful when it all works out. That’s a very good horse that was second. This is one of the greatest horses of all time.”
Prat added: “He shows so much talent. We were expecting a great run from him. He was an old pro. He broke sharp. I was worried that because he never really breaks super sharp. And was able to get myself in the clear, he was traveling well and relaxed well down the backside. I felt like was in control the whole race.
“Once I broke well and was where I wanted to be, I was in control. You never know what to expect because it’s horse racing. Sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you think it will. I can’t thank enough John Sadler and Juan Leyva (his exercise rider).”
A $1 million yearling, Flightline is scheduled to stand at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky upon his retirement. The son of Tapit was bred by Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm out of the Grade 3-winning Indian Charlie mare Feathered.
“It’s just astronomical,” said winning co-owner Stephanie Hronis. “It’s a thrill to see him pull it off. To tie it up with Life Is Good, you just never know what can happen because this is horse racing. He did it. It’s just a dynamic duo between (Flavien) Prat and Flightline. We’re so proud. It’s a great time we have.”
Godolphin on form
Aside from the brilliance of Flightline, it continued to be a remarkable meeting for the European invaders, most notably Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien, who fielded three winners apiece.
Godolphin’s Rebel Romance capped an extraordinary two days for his connections by landing the Breeders’ Cup Turf to place an exclamation mark on five-race winning streak that has also taken in Group 1 wins Preis von Europa and Grosser Preis von Berlin.
Settled towards the rear by James Doyle, the gelding made stealthy headway through the pack and despite running wide round the final bend, had enough in reserve to bound clear for a wide-margin score over the O’Brien-trained Stone Age. War Like Goddess fared best of the domestic challenge in third ahead of Mishriff, who ran on well from the back of the field having blown the start.
Fellow Godolphin globe-trotter, Modern Games, had earlier set connections on the right footing when justifying favouritism in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Despite being squeezed out not long after the start under William Buick, the Dubawi colt found a good rhythm and having been angled out for his challenge just over a furlong out, ran on well to win in ready fashion over the Roger Attfield-trained Shirl’s Speight and the closing Kinross.
“He is what he is,” said Appleby. “He’s ultra-professional and runs with his heart on his sleeve every time. He’s one horse, as Rishi (Persad) said earlier in the week, you’d love to play poker with him, because he shows his hand every time. He’s just done it again, there. Fantastic ride by William (Buick). It’s great for the team, great for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and great for Godolphin.
“He’s been a fantastic horse to travel. He won the French Guineas when he was very impressive then we stepped him up in trip in the French Derby where he ran so honestly to finish third. He didn’t really stay so I dropped him back to seven furlongs then which was the wrong thing to do. He then ran a blinder in the Sussex behind Baeed before winning in Canada. Later in the season we rolled the dice at Champions Day on soft ground and he probably got me over the line to win me the trainer’s championship when he was second as obviously in the UK it’s done on prize-money.
“Next year, the Queen Anne is the obvious target. He’s getting a fanfare around world and it was great to see him applauded this year not like last year which was no fault of his own. We’ll look to bring him back here next year. From this July onward he really changed physically and got stronger in all the right places. I thought he looked a picture in the paddock today and I was always quite confident when I saw him look that well.”
Godolphin’s American division also enjoyed a memorable afternoon courtesy of Cody’s Wish, who nosed out Cyberknife to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in a finish for the ages. The four-year-old, trained by Bill Mott, is named in honour of 16-year-old Cody Dorman, who suffers from Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Dorman met the colt when he was just a foal at Gainsborough as part of Keeneland’s Make-a-Wish day and forged an instant connection with him, prompting Godolphin to use the name.
“That was very special,” said Mott. “There’s a big story behind it. It just goes to show that the Make A Wish Foundation can make it very special for someone. The performance was awesome. He made a huge run turning for home.”
Cody’s Wish was one of three Breeders’ Cup winners on the day for Hill ‘n’ Dale sire Curlin alongside Juddmonte’s Elite Power, successful in the Sprint, and Shadwell’s Malathaat, who nosed out Blue Stripe and fellow Curlin filly Clairiere in a thrilling three-way finish to the Distaff. Remarkably, each of his top three finishers are out of Seattle Slew-line mares.
Filly and Mare Turf to Ballydoyle
The Coolmore team didn’t walk away empty-handed, however, as Oaks heroine Tuesday ran down In Italian to land the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
“It’s incredible for everyone that’s involved in the whole place,” said O’Brien. “She’s a filly that won the (Epsom) Oaks when she was barely there and we were conscious of that and we let her dally through the rest of the year. We had our eye on this race for her. She’s an amazing filly from an unbelievable pedigree as well. Totally 100 percent homebred which makes this incredible and a privilege for us. Ryan (Moore) gave her a stunning ride.
Moore added: “The race was very straight forward. Pace was strong and even. She was in a good rhythm. I was always confident and finished up very well. Aidan (O’Brien) had her in an unbelievable place today. The horse has been magnificent and has been most of year. She has bounced back.”